“My message here tonight is simple. I want to thank you on behalf of the hundreds of St. Thomas students, alumni, staff and faculty – who did not major in Catholic Studies, who do not hold Catholic Studies degrees, who do not work for Catholic Studies, who never taught a Catholic Studies course – but who nevertheless have been deeply blessed by your presence on our campus for the past 30 years. It is easy for me to extend that word of gratitude because I count myself among those who have been deeply blessed.”
President Rob Vischer began his remarks with these words on Sept. 23, when more than 525 Catholic Studies alumni, faculty, staff and benefactors gathered to celebrate the 30th anniversary of this transformative program at the University of St. Thomas. The celebration began with Mass in the Chapel of St. Thomas Aquinas, celebrated by Archbishop Bernard Hebda and more than 20 clergy. A reception, dinner and program followed in the James B. Woulfe Alumni Hall. Earlier that same week, Catholic Studies alumni celebrated this milestone on Sept. 21 for a first-of-its-kind alumni event at O’Shaughnessy Distilling in Minneapolis.
In addition to Vischer’s comments, the evening was filled with words of gratitude for the early visionaries of Catholic Studies, for the alumni and students who are making an impact in the world, and for the friends of Catholic Studies who prayerfully and financially support those who will follow.
Department Chair Dr. John Boyle introduced one of the earliest visionaries of Catholic Studies, Bishop Arthur Kennedy, who, along with Dr. Don Briel and other faculty members, articulated and modeled a dynamic vision for the intellectual life and its place in a whole life well lived. Kennedy was honored with a Priest-Scholar award and standing ovation from a grateful audience.
Dr. Michael Naughton, director of the Center for Catholic Studies, used Caravaggio’s “The Calling of Saint Matthew,” a painting that hangs in Sitzmann Hall, to illustrate the important work of Catholic Studies.
“Christ’s hand, as he points at Matthew, is the hand of God reminding Matthew that he has been given a work, a purpose that expresses the profound dignity in the deepest structure of his humanity,” Naughton said. “Catholic Studies engages students in this powerful created purpose that reminds them that whether their work is in business, engineering, education, nursing, or in the home, such work is never simply a job or a career, but a calling, a calling that tells them that their gifts are not their own, but to be given for others.”
Dr. Liz Lev, the evening’s keynote speaker and faculty member in Rome, has observed this awakening in students who have spent a semester with Catholic Studies in the Eternal City for the past 25 years.
“The students come to Rome, busy, engaged with the concerns of this world: work, marriage, success. But they are also looking for more,” Lev noted. “They are the ones who raise their heads at the right moment and see that light. Anyone who has ever felt that moment when they realized their vocation, the clarity of the understanding of the road to take, recognizes it in this image. And for Catholic Studies students, ‘The Calling of Saint Matthew’ illustrates the very purpose of their choice to pursue this program.”
The evening concluded with an invitation by Alessandro Marchetti ’12 to support Catholic Studies with essential scholarship funding and remarks and a blessing from Hebda, who noted, “There is something special here. ... This is a wonderful source of hope, not only for this archdiocese but for the Church more broadly. I benefit from the wonderful commitments of your alumni every day.”